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Sri Lanka continues detention of Muslim poet

By Kithsiri Wijesinghe

Colombo magistrate has approved the Counter-Terrorism Investigation Department (CTID) request to continue the detention of 26-year-old Muslim poet, Ahnaf Jazeem, under Sri Lanka’s draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act.

JDS reports that the police have filed a report to the magistrate which claims that Jazeem has requested to provide a statement that confessed his interest in Islamic extremist however, despite four months of detention, the police have failed to provide this statement. Commenting on this report, Jazeem’s lawyers stated;

“That is why they are submitting such a report containing a blatant lie after detaining him for many months. This is a brazen violation of the law. But the most worrying issue is the court not taking that into consideration”.

His lawyers and family have further stated that since he was detained without trial he has been subjected to physical and psychological torture. The lawyers have also complained to the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) that proper legal access is denied and that TID has “converted lawyers appearing for detainees to be objects of their investigations”.

In their statement they highlight how he was forced to sleep handcuffed to a table, causing severe pain in his arm. They further note the unsanitary conditions which have led him to be bitten by a rat.

JDS further report that Jazeem’s father has been threatened by Senior Superintendent of Police and CTID Director Prasanna de Alwis, a Gotabaya loyalist. According to their report, Alwis threatened his father demanding that his son provide a confession.

“It is at and when he was in Naleemiah that your son learnt (Muslim) extremism. More than 15 students have given statements saying that your son taught extremism to them. Your son is a young educated man. He is only 24 years old. He has a bright future. If he admits what I say, I will make him a state witness and release him. Otherwise, he will be in remand for another 10 to 15 years," Alwis is reported to have said.

The International Truth and Justice Project have detailed accusations from detains who name Alwis as torturing them or being complicit in their torture, dating back as far as 1998.

“Prasanna de Alwis has remained extremely loyal to Gotabaya Rajapaksa who directly issued orders to him during the war when Alwis was in the police Terrorism Investigation Division”.

JDS further notes that other respondents named in the Fundamental Rights petition launched by the lawyers are, Defence Secretary General Kamal Gunaratne, Inspector General of Police Chandana Wickremaratne, Inspector of Police, Counter-Terrorism Division (TID) Vavuniya, Director, Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and the Attorney General.

JDS further added that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) had written on 1 April to the CTID director requesting a report on Ahnaf Jazeem in detention by 8 April. This request was made following a complaint filed by the Young Journalists Association (YJA) to the HRCSL demanding information on the well-being of the poet.

Read the JDS reporting here.

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